The Billy Idol Rebel Yell album is celebrating 40 years. So I’d like to go back in time to 1983 and revisit it with my six-year-old self.


I’m really lucky. I grew up the son of parents who had great taste in music and a killer record collection. And they encouraged me to listen to records at an early age. I started with one of those beginner record players–blue case, white plastic turntable–and storytelling 45s of The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Star Wars. Later on, I graduated to full LPs of Saturday Night Fever and the kid-friendly Sesame Disco.


By the time I was in grade school in the early ’80s, I was picking through my parent’s records. I’d already heard a lot of them, of course: they were the soundtrack to my early youth. But it was a different experience altogether to pull a sleeve out of the shelf and marvel at the cover, the gatefold art, and the lyric sheet, if there was one. There were some that stuck with me. Billy Idol’s 1983 breakthrough was one.


Billy Idol ‘Rebel Yell’ Kinda Scared Me as a Kid

Here it is, courtesy of MusicBrainz, if you need your memory jogged:

Billy Idol 'Rebel Yell' front and back cover

Keep in mind, I’m six years old the first time I’m seeing this. So my brain is on fire. “This guy must be Billy Idol. Why isn’t he wearing a shirt? What’s that red light coming from his fist? Is he a super hero? And who’s the guy on the back, Steve Stevens? Why does his hair look like that? And why is it Side 3 and Side 4? What happened to Side 1 and Side 2?”


These questions were answered in short order. It wasn’t too long after I discovered the record that I started watching MTV regularly. And the music videos for those singles were in heavy rotation. I’ve shared them below to celebrate 40 years of Rebel Yell. And to recapture some of that magic my six-year-old self felt when discovering this classic for the first time.

  • "Rebel Yell"

    I remember thinking: “How does he not cut himself with all those spikes and chains and metal?”

  • "Eyes Without a Face"

    This video scared the living shit out of me. 40 years later and I still can’t explain why.

  • "Flesh For Fantasy"

    This was the video where I started to realize why Steve Stevens got featured on the back cover. He was a rock star, too.

  • "Catch My Fall"

    I have no recollection of seeing this one on MTV as a kid. Which, in hindsight might be a good thing.

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